The Toyota Hilux is one of the most famous names in the pick-up world, and this all-new version is on sale in the UK now. It promises on-road manners closer to that of an SUV rather than a pick-up, improved safety and comfort, more interior space and lower running costs.
Part of the reason for the latter is a new diesel engine. It’s a 2.4-litre, so it's smaller than the 3.0-litre of the previous Hilux, but has an improved fuel economy figure of 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 178g/km - if you choose the most economical version, that is.
There are three bodystyles to choose from: the two-seater Single Cab, four-seater Extra Cab, and five-seater Double Cab. The Double Cab is most popular with British buyers and gives the most flexibility with trim levels, with all four (Active, Icon, Invincible and Invincible X) offered on it, as well as the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox from Icon and above. The Single Cab and Extra Cab versions are only offered in Active trim and with a six-speed manual ‘box.
The Hilux costs from £19,177 (excluding VAT because, like all other pick-ups, it's aimed at commercial drivers) and tops out at £29,435. That top-spec version gets you Toyota’s five-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is the same as the previous newest entry to the pick-up market, the Nissan Navara, but not as good as the the five-year/125,000-mile warranty offered on the Mitsubishi L200 or Isuzu D-Max.
What’s the 2016 Toyota Hilux like to drive?
Toyota says it’s done a lot to make the Hilux more car-like to drive. The chassis and body have been stiffened and the suspension has been tuned to be softer, with the aim of improving ride comfort and body control, as well as changes to steering accuracy and feedback.
However, other pick-ups have claimed similar things in recent months, including the Navara, recently-revised Ford Ranger and L200. However, none of them have yet matched their traditional SUV rivals in terms of drive.
The new Hilux comes closer than most, and is much better to drive than model it replaces. The ride is surprisingly comfortable: its suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps, although the body does wobble a bit over really bumpy surfaces, particularly at low speeds when it isn't weighed down by anything in the load bay. Still, its ride quality on our UK roads feels slighlty better than that of the Navara, which was up until now the class best in that respect.
The Hilux's steering is accurate and nicely weighted by pick-up standards, but when going round corners you quickly remember the Toyota’s commercial vehicle roots – there’s lots of body sway and not a great deal of grip. Again though, it's still better than its rivals.
You can also hear the commercial vehicle in the Hilux when the engine starts up, although it becomes quieter on the move, settling down when cruising at motorway speeds, and is more than powerful enough. The commercial vehicle sound and feel from the engine is, as you'd expect, not unusual in the pick-up class and is especially prominent under hard acceleration.
Acceleration builds quickly, even from low revs, making overtaking less of a gamble than it is in many pick-up trucks, and it feels a match for the flexibility of the more powerful 187bhp twin-turbocharged 2.3-litre engine in the Navara. The standard six-speed manual gearbox is also surprisingly good; it's much slicker than the Navara's. The six-speed automatic gearbox is pretty smooth as well, and it's faster, but it commands a premium of around £1000 and is not as efficient as the manual alternative.
By nature, the Hilux is very good off-road, too. Lots of technical aids like hill decent control and all-wheel drive mean that it is brilliant at navigating through tricky terrain.
What’s the 2016 Toyota Hilux like inside?
This is another area where Toyota has tried to make the Hilux more SUV-like. The driving position is high, with a commanding view of the road ahead and good rear visibility aided by large mirrors. The driver's seat is comfortable, too. The dashboard is logically laid out and the buttons and switches on it have a more positive action than in most rival pick-ups.
The interior is comprises a mixture of plush-feeling materials, such as the seats, and more hard-wearing plastics on the dashboard and the insides of the doors. Overall quality isn’t SUV-good, but it's certainly a grade above that of any other pick-up, including the recently revised Ranger, which is another model attempting to broaden its appeal with a more SUV-like interior, and the Navara, which borrows parts from the Nissan Pulsar hatchback.
Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system, which has clear graphics and is easy enough to use, is included on Icon trim and above. Sat-nav is a £750 optional extra.
Space in the front is generous and in Double Cab versions there’s enough room for another two adults in the back. However, Extra Cab versions have two smaller rear doors and only a token amount of space in the back. Single Cab versions are strictly two-seaters.
As for load space, the new Hilux has a larger cargo deck than the model it replaces. It can be specced with various different covers, including ones that roll across and larger, raised and fixed bodies.
As for that load carrying ability, the Hilux has a maximum towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes - a figure that puts it on a par with key rivals in its class. It's maximum load carrying capacity is 1055kg, which just edges the Navara, but falls short of a Ranger's 1081kg.
Entry-level Active trim has features including Bluetooth, 17in alloys and a chrome front grille, while upgrading to Icont trim adds a 4.2in touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control and DAB radio. Invincible trim is expected to be the best-selling: it adds 18in alloys, keyless entry and start, LED headlights and automatic air-con. Meanwhile, top-spec Invincible X brings different 18in alloys, a chrome pack and a leather interior.
For the same money, you could have:
Should I buy one?
The Hilux is better to drive on and off road than before and also makes a stronger case than ever for pick-up buyers who want to be able to use their work vehicle for family life, too.
It’s competitively priced next to its rivals and benefits from the longer five-year/100,000-mile warranty for the first time, as well as improved official fuel economy. Some rivals, such as the L200, can be had for less, but feel far more workmanlike as vehicles.
As with all pick-ups, the Hilux attracts monthly tax payments of £105 for 40% taxpayers, with a £50 charge on top for unlimited private fuel.
Finance deals are also available. On a three-year deal, with a £5000 deposit and an annual mileage limit of 10,000, the entry-level Hilux in Active trim with a manual gearbox costs £397 a month. The same deposit and mileage gets you mid-spec versions of the Nissan Navara NP300 for £269 a month over the same period, while the Mitsubishi L200 costs £386 a month. We also understand Toyota dealers will have some room for negotiation if you’re prepared to haggle.
However, while those looking to swap out of an SUV and into a pick-up for the first time may be tempted by the Hilux’s attractive price, its bodystyle could prove too much of a compromise for many.
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What Car? says...
Toyota Hilux Invincible Double-Cab
Engine size 2.4-litre diesel
Price from £24,923
Torque 295lb ft
Top speed 106mph
Official fuel economy 40.4mpg